Leighton trio the Memphis Belles linked up with veteran escapee Bernard Jordan when they appeared at a D-Day anniversary event in Normandy last week – and found themselves top of the news agenda when they returned.
Belles leader Claire Deakin, 35, of Summer Street, said: “Our agent Jon Orrell and his sister Christine met Bernie on the ferry and took him under their wing.
“We didn’t realise it was such a big story until we came back and saw the headlines.”
Ex Royal Navy lieutenant Bernard, 89. mounted a one-man expedition to the beaches in Normandy after sneaking out from his Hove care home. His ‘escape’ caught the world’s imagination and he was given a hero’s welcome when he got back.
But in between, he wandered into Le Grand Bunker museum in Ouistreham where the Memphis Belles – Claire, Julie Maguire and Adele Leatham – kept an enthusiastic audience entertained until 2am.
Claire recalled: “There was such a party atmosphere – it was more like a celebration than a commemoration.
“Bernie was an absolute sweetie, a lovely man – and just so determined to be there.” The former Vandyke pupil added: “It was the most fantastic experience of my life. I felt so proud, and so humble.
“We thought we might see some famous world figures but those old guys were the real stars. They’re just ordinary people, yet they changed the course of history. It gave me a whole new perspective – and it’s still so fresh in their minds.”
But she confessed there was a hint of sadness in the air, in spite of the celebrations: “Several old soldiers, including one 95-year-old, probably won’t be fit to travel to the next significant anniversary – however much they want to.”
She’s already planning to come back in July with her five-year-old son Callahan so they can pay tribute to the brave men whose remains lie in Commonwealth cemeteries around Normandy.
> The Memphis Belles will be appearing at the SAAFA family open day in Parsons Park on Sunday, June 22. For more information visit www.memphisbelles.co.uk